One of the hot words flying around the Products Cave at Digital Telepathy right now is “engagement”. After all, it’s what we do as a company, and is at the heart of what we’re envisioning Filament to be – a tool to help you measure and increase the engagement of your blog.
Outside our four walls, engagement is important in determining a blog’s effectiveness in achieving its overall objective – but in a web that’s obsessed with simply driving ever more traffic to your front door, opportunities for gaining better engagement from these visitors remain largely ignored and untapped. At the end of the day, engagement is thinking less about “increasing traffic”, and instead learning how to do more with the traffic you already have!
Yes, blog post engagement is a huge and powerful concept that’s intimidating to consider as a whole – but it’s really made up of smaller, simpler components that are pretty simple to understand. So in this post (and subsequent posts), I’m going to break down blog engagement into manageable, measurable pieces that together can answer that feared question “how’s the blog doing?”, and empower you to gain actionable insights that’ll help you improve it.
Disclaimer – this is a theory we’re batting around right now, and are experimenting by applying it to this very blog. Think you’ve poked a hole in it? Tell us!
Also, you should beware of icky math ahead! Although I’m about as far from a math guy as you can get (instead, relying on careful word choices and exemplary personal hygiene to compensate), some simple calculations and formulae can make all the difference in gaining deeper knowledge about how your blog is performing and where you should spend your time.
* Don’t have Google Analytics installed on your blog? Don’t worry, you can use our Google Analytics app to drag & drop it on your site in seconds!
Ok, without further ado…
Measuring Blog Post Engagement: The Web Analytics Stack
Before we dive into measuring engagement, we should first understand the context within which it lives. Put simply, all web analytics can be stacked into four layers: Objectives, Engagement, Metrics, and Data.
Get Clear On Your Objectives
Every website has an Objective – the main reason for its existence. By and large, these objectives fall into one of a few categories:
To me, the pyramid shape of the Analytics Stack reflects the reality on the web that there are many ways to get to the same objective.
* Since we’re talking about blogs specifically in this post, I’ve starred the objectives more relevant to blogs and content-oriented sites.
Defining Blog Engagement
When a visitor to your blog exhibits a desirable behavior that can impact your objective, we say that they’re engaged. Engagement takes on several potential forms, but the ones most indicative of an engaging blog post are:
- Subscribes/Follows – People who fall in love at first read, and want to receive more content from you, forevermore
- Social shares – People who thought your content was so astoundingly valuable, that they had to share it with everyone they know
- Comments – People so moved by your insightful points, they had to publicly acknowledge your genius
- Completions – People who were so riveted by the evocative beauty of your prose, they scrolled all the way to the bottom, devouring every last word
- Bookmarks – People who are so enticed by what little of your post they were able to cram into their lunch break, that they bookmarked it (either in their browser, or with some social bookmarking service), and resolved to return and finish it
- And so on…
Each of these indicators of engagement can be measured/sliced and diced in many different ways, but for the purposes of this post, let’s focus on Social Shares, since they have the biggest implications for the reach and distribution of your content. Bear in mind as we go through this, that the same framework applies to the other engagement touchpoints, though!
As an aside, social sharing is one of the engagement touchpoints we’ve been focusing on recently because we’re building the Filament Insights system, which is designed to give you actionable insights around the social sharing occurring on your blog – useful stuff like your top promoters for each post, best-shared and fastest-growing posts, and more.
Want to be included in the beta when it’s released? Sign up here by Oct 31:
Share Conversion Rate: Comparing Your Posts’ Social Shares (for fun & profit!)
Of course, you can begin by simply measuring the number of shares – but that doesn’t tell us much, beyond…um, how many shares occurred. In addition, your high-performing ‘evergreen’ posts may consistently get more shares than other posts – which again, doesn’t give us much useful insight.
But what if we measured the number of shares that happened for each given post, compared to the number of visitors each post got? This conversion rate gives us an idea of how effective each post is at converting a visitor into a sharer (or promoter), regardless of differences in the volume of pageviews and shares – essentially, it gives us an apples-to-apples comparison between posts, independent of age:
# of Shares / # of Pageviews = Share Conversion Rate
Our beta Filament Insights system starts off with this key metric at the top, across your entire blog, and even compares yesterday’s performance to the average from 30 days ago…
…but you can calculate your sharing rate yourself by simply taking the share count from the Flare bar, then dividing it by the pageviews for your post in Google Analytics via the All Pages report under the Behavior section (just filter down to the page in question):
Comparing the share conversion rate of posts against each other enables you to see which ones give you the most sharing bang for your buck. Although one post may get the most shares overall, a different post might be the most efficient at getting shares – and could be a deserving candidate for further post-publish promotion and more traffic being thrown at it.
An Example of Share Conversion Rate
Let’s say I want to compare my blog post, “How to (Potty) Train Your Dragon”, which I published 18 months ago, against “[VIDEO] I Take the Red Pill and Go Down the Rabbit Hole”, which I wrote last week, and figure out which post I should spend my time promoting.
“How to (Potty) Train Your Dragon” has 1579 shares and has been visited 15,022 times.
“[VIDEO] I Take the Red Pill and Go Down the Rabbit Hole” has only 220 shares, and has been visited 437 times.
By applying the Share Conversion Rate formula, I see that “Potty” has a 10.5% Share Conversion Rate, while “Rabbit Hole” has a whopping 50.3% rate – meaning that for every 100 visitors I send to that post, I can expect to get over 50 shares, compared to only 11 from the other post.
So clearly, if I’m interested in getting more shares on my blog, promoting “Rabbit Hole” is likely a more effective use of my time.
Social Visits & Network Efficiency
(aka you’re so vain, you probably think this metric is about you)
Displaying sharing counts are great for two things:
1. Social proof to encourage your readers to hop on the bandwagon and share your post
2. Making yourself sound important to other blogfolk
In other words, they’re kind of a vanity metric, even though they’re very useful tools for social proof. This is because social shares by themselves don’t directly impact any of your blog’s objectives. But social shares potentially generate more traffic to your post from folks who click on the Facebook post/tweet/pin, etc. Such bonus traffic is sometimes called “Viral Lift” – and getting more of it definitely does impact your objectives!
Therefore another dimension by which to measure your blog posts’ engagement, is social traffic, i.e. visitors referred to your post via social networks. Again, you can grab this number from Google Analytics under the Network Referrals report:
With this number under your arm, you can calculate another useful metric – the Network Efficiency Score (NES):
Oops, sorry, that’s not it – here you go:
# of Social Visits / # of Shares = Network Efficiency Score
This Network Efficiency Score tells you which posts attract the most visits from social networks for each share that they generate, which is another good way to objectively compare the performance of posts to each other. After all, one post may garner a ton of shares, with only a trickle of traffic coming to your site, while another post may resonate with a handful of highly influential folks, resulting in a server-crushing flood of traffic – hey don’t scoff, it’s happened to us before.
An Example of Social Network Efficiency
(using completely ridiculous fictitious social network names for fun)
Going back to my latest blog post: “Rabbit Hole” gets 200 shares on FaceSpace, but only 20 Twoots. As a result, I see 80 visits to my blog from FaceSpace, and only 50 visits from Twooter. Which social network gave me more bang for my buck?
When we apply the formula for Network Efficiency Score, FaceSpace gets 0.4, meaning I could expect around that many visits for every FaceSpace share. Twooter’s Network Efficiency, however, is 2.5, meaning that it appears to be over 6 times as effective at driving return traffic to my blog than FaceSpace.
Guess I should spend more time twooting, right?
Putting It All Together
Taking the outcomes of the previous two examples together…
- My new post “Rabbit Hole” gets more shares, and
- Of the shares that happen on “Rabbit Hole”, I get the most traffic from Twooter
…it suddenly becomes very clear what I could do next to maximize my growth towards my objective. If I wanted:
- more subscribers: I’d place a prominent subscription form on that post, and promote it mostly on Twooter
- more leads/contacts: I’d end that post with a good overview of my social media profiles
- more pageviews: I’d make sure to suggest other related articles on this post, and do a dedicated ask to twoot this post
So, thanks to a couple simple calculations, we’ve gotten actionable insights that are likely to help move the needle for our blog’s continued growth. Now, just imagine if you knew these numbers all the time, and across all your engagement touchpoints, not just social sharing!